The desperate shortage of ambulances in the Eastern Cape is a crisis that is costing lives. I challenge the MEC, Helen Sauls-August, to spell out clear action steps to overcome this disastrous state of affairs. People are dying on your watch, MEC.
In response to questions set in the Legislature, the MEC for Health, Helen Sauls-August, acknowledged that the province requires 656 working ambulances in order to comply with the national norm of 1 ambulance per 10 000 people. However, the current fleet consists of only 447 ambulances, and there are no plans to increase the fleet. This, despite the South African Human Rights Commission ordering the Department of Health to comply with the norm from as early as 2015.
Shockingly, 200 of these 447 ambulances are currently grounded, either for repairs, writing off or de-fleeting. So effectively there is one ambulance for every 32 800 people in the province. Further exacerbating this dire situation is the desperate shortage of Emergency Services personnel. Consequently ambulance personnel are expected to work longer shifts, and even need police escorts in some areas due to gang related violence or protest violence.
In some rural areas where there are no ambulances, it can cost a patient up to R800 to catch a taxi to the nearest clinic or hospital – this is half of a monthly grant. Patients are dying and women are giving birth on the side of the road while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. In many instances families are forced to push their desperately ill family members for kilometers in wheelbarrows to try to reach the nearest clinic.
It is clear that the ANC does not care about the people of the Eastern Cape. However, their continued violation of the rights of the sick in this province tell a very different story – a story of maladministration and a distinct lack of political will to make the necessary changes within the department to make it functional.
In DA-led municipalities, effective, efficient and high quality primary health care is the order of the day. New clinics and hospitals have been built, clinic hours have been extended for working folk, chronic medication gets delivered to the homes of patients and ambulances serve all communities timeously and professionally.
We look forward to bringing real change and efficient health services to the Eastern Cape, because the people of this province deserve no less.
Jane Cowley, MPL
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